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Book review. SALVATION by Peter F. Hamilton

Posted January 27, 2019 into Books by John Birmingham

I didn't finish Hamilton's last door stopper, Night Without Stars. It was set within his 'Commonwealth' story world, which I hugely enjoyed, but this particular narrative side quest simply didn't appeal. I came to SALVATION then, with some misgivings. Thankfully, they were unfounded.
SALVATION isn't the pure space opera of the early Commonwealth Saga or the even earlier Night's Dawn trilogy, but it does offer a satisfying buffet of devious space aliens, big honking space guns, and futuristic world building. There's even a pretty decent terraforming/terrorism sub plot set in Australia.
Most of Hamilton's vividly imagined creations tend to revolve around one central technological conceit. In Night's Dawn its encoded consciousness (don't argue with me, it just is). In SALVATION it's portal technology. Stargates, if you like, but prosaic, almost banal stargates. Sure, they can let you walk between the stars, but they're also used for getting around locally on now defunct bus routes.
The portals are not the point of the story. They're the enabling architecture. They channel the stories of the main narrators towards a surprise ending that sets up a conventional—but for me quite exciting—sequel promising lots of devious space aliens getting splattered by big honking space guns.
Like Night Without Stars, SALVATION proceeds in two time periods, inviting the reader to speculate how one led to the other. In the earlier period, an ensemble cast of characters recalling some of the great Hollywood anthology films of the 1940s travel to a far-flung world in search of an alien artefact. One of them is an alien spy, and Hamilton's deft handling of the whodunnitry recalls some of the best Paula Myo cases from the Commonwealth.
The second seemingly self contained story arc is set hundreds of years later and could be thought of as a reimagined Ender's Game, as we follow a small cohort of children through ten years of education and training in preparation for battle with the above mentioned but unnamed devious alien threat. By the end of SALVATION Hamilton has threaded the two timelines together and pulled off a pretty decent surprise when revealing the identity of the spy.
I read this book while we travelled around Vietnam, usually getting through thirty or forty pages a night before crashing out, and finishing it on the plane as we flew home. It was compelling and ocasionally quite stunning as an imaginative tour de force. I enjoyed it so much that I feel like I should go back and give Night Without Stars another chance.

9 Responses to ‘Book review. SALVATION by Peter F. Hamilton’

thetick reckons...

Posted January 27, 2019
I really enjoyed Salvation.

Hamilton's been a bit hit and miss with his Commonwealth saga (which overall I enjoy). I really enjoyed Great North Road as well.

Genuinely looking forward to the rest of the books.

Have you read Brian Mcclellan's Powder Mage novels?

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted January 27, 2019
I was listening to it on Audible. Oddly, I recognised that it was a great piece of work, but for some reason I just couldn't get into it.

FormerlyKnownAsSimon asserts...

Posted January 29, 2019
i find the same with Audible, and it all depends on the reader. Doing a good rendition seems to be bloody hard. Storytellers who use their voice to maximum effect should be once again kings of the world.

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Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted January 27, 2019
Excellent, keep the recommendations coming. You had me at 'Big hoinking space guns'. I shall commence it once I have finished "Will to battle" book 3 in Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota series.

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she_jedi asserts...

Posted January 27, 2019
Did you see Charles Stross recommending Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone on the Twits the other day? It looks epic, I have it on pre-order with iBooks, but I thought it would be up your alley when I read the blurb for it

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted January 27, 2019
Added to my stack!

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jason is gonna tell you...

Posted January 28, 2019
Breville BRC460
Panasonic SR-DF181WST

These are the two top ranked units by Choice Magazine Australia.

I used to use the stove top in my quest for a real Asian feel and then went to Asia where rice cookers are everywhere.

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jl would have you know...

Posted January 28, 2019
I'll have to look this up. Currently finished a bunch of reading for a research project, now I'm into a book called "Bloodlands" about the violence in Eastern Europe 1933-1945. Starts with the famine in Soviet Ukraine 1933. Not exactly light reading.

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Oldy reckons...

Posted January 29, 2019

I'll check it out :)

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